Fatherhood in Complex Families: Ties between Adult Children, Biological Fathers, and Stepfathers

Journal Name
Journal of Marriage and Family
Page Count
Year Published
Author (Individual)
Hornstra, M., Kalmijn, M. & Ivanova, K.
Resource Type
Journal Article
Resource Format
Resource Language

This article examines adult children's concurrent ties to biological fathers and stepfathers. Three mechanisms potentially determining the strength of father‐child and stepfather‐child ties were tested, namely, investment, interdependence, and substitution. The findings suggest that the quality of the two father‐child ties are interrelated, that is, a small substitution effect (i.e., adult children were more likely to “choose” one father in the presence of both) was found. In addition, the quality of father‐child and stepfather‐child ties was found to be associated with the length of the parental investment period (i.e., investment). Finally, bonds with stepfathers were positively associated with the attitudes of the two fathers toward each other, while bonds with both fathers were associated with the quality of the tie between the biological parents (i.e., interdependence). Overall, the weak substitution dynamic that was found implied that a poor tie with one father can partly be substituted by being close to another father.

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